Gay travel experts weigh in on hot destinations for post-wedding bliss
Planning the perfect vacation is one thing (among many) that gay men and lesbians do extremely well. We know how to live it up and make the most out of every moment in strange beds far from home and we have the miniature shampoo collections and room service bills to prove it.
So when it comes time to commit to that special someone, where you have the ceremony and where you travel afterward to consummate the relationship are very important decisions.
Americans are generally met with increasing hostility worldwide, but for gay Americans, it can be even worse. It’s therefore vital to choose a destination where you can be yourself and enjoy your umbrella’d cocktails on the beach in peace, beauty and safety.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places that love gays. Local travel agents Shawn Quish, owner of Remarkable Vacations, and Robbie Elliott, managing partner of Access Travel, have some insider tips on where to go for the ceremony and honeymoon, and how to make each the most memorable and pleasurable experience possible.
Knowing where to go is only the first step. Elliott advises consulting a travel agent to help plan the trip.
“Book the trip as a package so all you have to worry about are the incidentals while you’re gone,” he says. “Pick a place where you can do a fair amount of sightseeing, but be able to relax at the same time.”
Quish echoes the sentiment. “I would recommend booking a gay vacation package, traveling to destinations and using hotel properties that have a track record for being very gay-friendly. If you are wanting to go away and be free to show your love openly, as most do after the celebration, then look at places that have shown that they are open to that type of lifestyle.”
When it comes to the ceremony itself, two pioneering states for gay marriage still lead the pack, according to Elliott. “Hawaii and Vermont are the top two, but you can get the ceremony performed in almost any destination now,” he says.
Quish agrees, adding that Toronto, Canada, is one of the newest hot spots for gay weddings. (See story on Page W3.)
As for the honeymoon, the popularity of particular destinations depends on what you’re looking for.
Some people enjoy ski vacations which don’t sound all that practical in the spring and summer months. But Elliott advices not writing them off altogether, even now.
“You can’t beat Canada in the spring,” he says, “even some places that are known as ski destinations.”
He went to Vancouver and toured the Whistler resort one July and sat on a glacier cap at the top of the mountain. Try doing that in the middle of February.
Quish has booked trips to Walt Disney World and Amsterdam, and even on RSVP Cruises, as a getaway after the ceremony.
Elliott is not as quick to recommend Disney for his gay clients. “I love kids I have eight nephews and nieces but not other people’s,” he says.
If you’re planning to have a beachfront service on Maui, there’s no reason to go elsewhere for the party, says Quish. “My clients traveling to Hawaii for the ceremony stay there for the honeymoon.”
“Every island is completely different from the other one,” Elliott says of Hawaii. “I feel like anything you wanted to do could be found there: Relax with great food, party all night, take mountain tours, go deep-sea fishing. There’s lots of eco-tourism. If you want to go somewhere romantic that’s gay-friendly, then Hawaii is the place.”
Warm honeymoons offer lots of choices. Puerto Vallarta is a popular honeymoon destination for Quish’s clients.
Elliott sings the praises of the French West Indies (“It doesn’t get any more queer than the French men kissing each other on the street; I would recommend St. Bart’s more than I would France,” he says) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Despite the appeal of the Caribbean, there are a couple of tropical paradises that are not so welcoming
“I try not to lead any of my gay clients to the Bahamas, unless they are on a cruise and it makes a stop there. I also do not recommend that couples go to Jamaica,” Quish says.
Elliott offers a more general warning.
“Make sure you pick a destination where you will feel comfortable and safe,” Elliott says. “Any area that you have to be concerned about the food or water should be avoided as well as any destination with any hint of political problems or resentment toward Americans.”
Elliott says he would never send a client to the Bahamas “the water’s beautiful but there’s nothing to do” and says he has often heard reports that the Cayman Islands are not friendly toward GLBT travelers. He also counsels against going too far for a honeymoon.
“Australia is great, but it’s a 15 hours flight and then two days to recover. You never know how much you love someone until you spend 15 hours on a plane with them,” he says.
If you’re like most travelers, you need a second vacation just to relax from your first and Quish has the perfect recommendation for that, too.
“There is this hidden place that I recommend in San Luis Obispo called Temptation Ranch. It is great for couples and very quiet and secluded a place to go to just enjoy each other,” he says.
And isn’t that what a honeymoon is all about?
Shawn Quish, 972-814-1202; Remarkable vacations.com and Gothegayway.com.
Robbie Elliott, Access Travel; 972-791-1222; Accesstvl.com.
GETTING THE LAW ON YOUR SIDE
You cannot escape the irony that even while states like Texas pass legislation such as Proposition 2, denying gay men and lesbians the right to cement and legalize a permanent relationship, more and more heterosexual couples are deciding not to bother with the formality of marriage.
But whether gay or straight, couples who skipped the wedding are still entitled to enter into legal contracts setting the parameters of their relationships and most attorneys will tell you they need to.
For those who don’t think they have the money to hire a lawyer, there is software that can help you navigate the murky waters of life-partnerhood.
Muses Legal Products produces a legal guide to living together as a couple in every way but name. The two-disc CD set of 152 common legal documents covers a range of issues, from medical treatment (such as living wills, powers of attorney and authorizations permitting physicians to disclose your health information to a partner) to divisions of home and household expenses to financial support by one person of the other. There are even “custody” agreements relating to maintenance and care of pets (children, too).
The documents have been specifically designed in accordance with the laws of more than 30 states (including Texas). And while a piece of paper alone is not a substitute for legal advice from a professional, this packet of useful, easy-to-understand documents can at least help you ask an attorney the right questions for under $100.
Muses Legal Guide to Living Together. $89.95. Museslegalproducts.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 12, 2006.